Supreme Court Considers Affirmative Action

Three years after the University of Michigan Law School began enforcing affirmative action in their admissions process, Michigan voters repealed its ruling. Instead, they opted for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which prohibits the government from granting preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin. Initiated after the Grutter v. Bollinger case in 2003, the policy allowed the school to consider race as a factor during the admissions process. In doing so, they hoped to increase campus diversity by giving admissions preference to minority students who otherwise might not have been accepted.

Since the ruling for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in 2006, nine other states have also chosen to ban affirmative action from the admissions process. As a result, African American enrollment at University of Michigan has decreased a staggering 30 percent.

Supporters of affirmative action argue that other groups such as veterans, athletes and even alumni’s children receive special consideration in the admissions process. If this is the case, why should it be illegal for minorities to have the same preferential treatment? Universities that are in support of affirmative action  believe that it is difficult to ensure campus diversity if they do not know the race of their applicants.

The Schuette v. Coalition Supreme Court case began on October 7 to decide whether or not affirmative action is discriminatory or beneficial in the enrollment process. They will likely reference Romer v. Evans, which prohibited the government from singling out gay and lesbian applicants. However, Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion of the Romer v. Evans case, says, “Romer was a law that was discriminating against gays and lesbians, whereas he sees [Schuette v. Coalition] as a law that simply guarantees racial equality.” Kennedy’s ability to distinguish the two cases will play a key role in the outcome.

University of Chicago constitutional law professor, Geoff Stone states Kennedy will need to prove that Michigan’s ballot initiative is different from Romer and is non-discriminatory. Legal experts expect Kennedy to take the more conservative route defending the Michigan Ballot initiative. However, experts say if justice splits 4-4, the lower court will overcome the ballot initiative.


Sources:  Huffington Post, U.S. News

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